Become a Discovery Scholar


The Discovery Scholar distinction is intended to recognize and celebrate graduating seniors who have excelled academically while making a meaningful contribution to their field of study through exceptional new scholarship or artistic work. Learn more about the history of the Discovery Scholar distinction here.

Step 1: Determine Eligibility
Step 2: Review Project Requirements
Step 3: Apply for Discovery Scholars

1. Determine Eligibility

To be designated as a Discovery Scholar upon graduation, applicants must be a graduating senior and:

  • graduate with a minimum of 3.5 overall GPA (with University Honors)
  • graduate within 5 years of entering USC
  • meet criteria for distinction set by the appropriate USC School

COVID-19 Update

If an applicant’s research has been impacted by COVID-19 (i.e. reduced lab access, cancellation of summer research opportunities, etc.), there will be a short answer question requesting a summary of COVID-related interruptions. Incomplete research projects may be submitted; however, applicants should summarize their intended continuation of the research in the required summary/abstract.

2. Review Project Requirements for Discovery Scholars

A complete application will include a final project and a letter of recommendation. Utilize the designated School Coordinators for specific questions about project criteria for each individual USC School. For general questions about the USC Discovery Scholar distinction, contact Academic Honors and Fellowships at


  • Review 2020-2021 Project Criteria for each USC School (use Bookmark tool for navigation)
  • Discovery Scholar School Coordinators organize the school committee for internal application review. Coordinators should only be contacted to clarify school-specific criteria if needed (this step is not mandatory). View list of Coordinators.
  • For feedback on content or structure of Capstone Project, applicants should contact faculty mentor(s) within their discipline or the USC Writing Center.

If you are applying for the Global and Discovery Scholar distinction, you must submit a completely different capstone project for each application to earn both distinctions and/or prize nominations. If you submit the same project for Discovery and Global, your school will certify you for just one of the distinctions based on which program criteria (if any) best first your submitted work. In addition, you may be considered for each distinction’s Prize Competition; however, no student can be awarded more than one Prize.

Group projects may be submitted but, if selected for a prize, all project group members will receive the $10,000 prize funding evenly dispersed.


  • Whenever possible, letter should come from the faculty member who has supervised or mentored the student on the project. Applicants should discuss intent to submit an application and request a letter as early as possible.
  • Letter should provide context for student’s work relative to the: student’s overall achievement and performance in the program; scope and quality of their contribution to submitted project; merit of the project relative to quality of work typically presented at the undergraduate level and the highest standards of the discipline; and value and implications of the project in the field of study and beyond.

Applicants will also be asked to submit a current resume or C.V. as part of the application.

3. Apply for Discovery Scholars

Graduating seniors must apply during the spring semester of their final academic year in order to graduate with the distinction. May and August graduates apply in their final spring semester. December graduates apply after graduation.

Prize Competition

Application Open: October 19, 2020 by 12:00pm PST

Deadline: March 22, 2021 by 11:59pm PST

First Round Notifications: By mid-April
Applicants nominated for prize consideration will be given a brief window of time to update their submitted materials before their project is forwarded to the university Prize Review Panel.

Second Round Notifications (Prize Competition): By early May


Application Open: April 1, 2021

Final Deadline: April 19, 2021 by 11:59pm PST

Notifications: By beginning of May


After submitting an application, students should closely review emails from Academic Honors and Fellowships for notifications regarding status of distinction, follow-up for prize nominations, and instructions for receiving a medallion at the beginning of May.

Prize winners must demonstrate evidence of enrollment in a graduate program (within or outside the U.S.); or submit a proposal for a creative project that advances their career. Prize funding must be utilized within 5 years of graduating from USC. More information on the Scholar Distinction landing page.

Contact Us

General Advising: October – Mid-March and Fellowship Friday Info Session for general eligibility or application process questions

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